The UK digital sectors after Brexit

With world-class businesses in computing and information goods and services, and those that intensively use these digital inputs in production—across media, finance, advertising, and other high-value business services—the UK is a global leader in the digital economy. The UK’s “digital sector” accounts for 16 per cent of domestic output, 10 per cent of employment, and 24 per cent of exports. It contributes disproportionately to growth, productivity, and innovation—directly and indirectly—and its development has been a stated national priority.

Like many other sectors of the economy, Britain’s digital sector is now confronted with a changing business environment as government prepares for an exit from the European Union. This report, commissioned by techUK and independently produced by Frontier, helps support decision-making among the various stakeholders ahead of negotiations by building an evidence base around three major sector priorities—access to markets, talent, and data flows.

This analysis demonstrates why access to cross-border markets, skilled labour, and data flows were prioritised by Britain’s leading digital companies last year—because these factors are fundamental to the sector’s international orientation and to its performance in a global marketplace. Our primary finding is that the digital sectors are vulnerable to disruptions on both the supply side and the demand side from Brexit, particularly when compared with the UK economy overall.

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